I'm not one much for mixing theology with food, but if there's any animal on earth that I'd consider good evidence of a benevolent Creator who loves and cares for us, it has to be the pig. No other animal can come close in the variety of preparations, from cured ham and bacon to fried pork chops and pulled pork (which is the highest, best form of barbecue). From "the other white meat" ad campaigns that tout pork as health food to the current foodie trend of putting bacon in just about everything, pork is more popular than ever before, and after some very extensive field research, I've found what might be the best pork dish in Little Rock: the Pork Osso Bucco at Red Door.
Now the purists out there might already be fuming, because a traditional osso bucco has nothing to do with pork whatsoever — it's a dish made by braising a tough piece of veal shank with vegetables until the meat becomes tender. But "osso bucco" simply means "bone with a hole" in Italian, and the pork shank that Red Door substitutes in their version of the dish not only qualifies, it takes the dish to an entirely better place than the classic veal. The portion of meat at Red Door is enormous, fork tender and glazed with a rich and savory reduction of veal and mushroom stock. The meat has the perfect texture, with a firm exterior that has a deep brown color and good flavor from the initial searing to a juicy and deeply flavored interior that falls from the bone as the result of long braising. The final result is a chunk of on-the-bone goodness that is sure to awaken the primal urges of any red-blooded carnivore.
Balancing the strongly flavored pork are two green sides, haricots verts and grilled asparagus. The asparagus is soft without being mushy, and the dusting of freshly grated Parmesan cheese makes for a nice savory flavor accent to the slightly bitter vegetable. The green beans are cooked in the classic French style, briefly blanched in boiling water and then shocked in ice water to maintain their color, then sauteed in butter until just heated through. The result is a bean that is far more fresh tasting and colorful than the classic Southern method of overcooking green beans until they achieve a state of leathery green mush. The vegetables are the perfect counterpoint to the pork, and taken as a whole make for an incredible dining experience, and while it's not the usual way one finds pork prepared in Arkansas, it certainly is one of the best.
Red Door is located at 3701 Old Cantrell Road, and they serve dinner daily.
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